A reader worries that reports of Sony moving away from Japanese games development are true and that doing so plays into Microsoft’s hands.
For years now Sony has been disengaging itself from the Japanese games industry and positioning PlayStation as a primarily American brand. They deny it, of course, but it’s been obvious since at least 2016, when they reorganised the division to be based in America and not Japan.
This was probably because of Japan’s obsession with mobile gaming and the realisation that the PlayStation 4, and all home consoles, were underperforming there.
Current boss Jim Ryan seemed to confirm this in a recent Edge interview, before suggesting that Japan has, ‘become more engaged in console development again in the years since’. Sony though, has not become more engaged with Japan.
It’s not even just Japan, back in 2019 Sony gutted its European PlayStation offices to, again, refocus everything and everyone in America. This all sounds like a classic power grab by Ryan, who is still relatively new in the top job, and it’s likely all this is being done primarily to feather his nest and not for the benefit of Sony, PlayStation, or gamers.
Ryan may deny all this but the Bloomberg report that caused the latest controversy states that not only has the creator of Gravity Rush and Silent Hill left Sony’s Japan Studio, along with a number of other veterans, but that a number of rolling contracts have not been renewed by Sony and developer support teams have seen their number cut by as much as a third. And remember, this is Bloomberg reporting this, not some anonymous troll on 4chan.
To me this is madness, not only because Japan still makes the best video games in the world – including top PlayStation 4 exclusives like Blooborne, The Last Guardian, and Persona 5 – but because Sony being so plugged into the Japanese games industry is one of the PlayStation’s major advantages over Xbox.
It’s not just that Xbox sells nothing in Japan but that Microsoft holds very little sway with Japanese publishers, to the point where they often won’t bring even fairly big games to Xbox formats. But there’s every indication that’s about to change.
After Microsoft spent $7.5 billion on Bethesda they immediately said they were interested in buying more companies and rumours quickly sprung up that they’re looking for Japanese companies next. But you don’t need a rumour to know that, just common sense.
So this is absolutely the worst time for Sony to suddenly start alienating Japanese publishers, especially when their last two big Japanese games were actually Western made (Ghost Of Tsushima is by an American company, Demon’s Souls is a remake of a Japanese game by a Western company). The only actually Japanese game for the PlayStation 5 launch was the three-hour long Astro’s Playroom, which was great but absolutely should have been a full, proper game.
Even if Microsoft doesn’t outright buy Square Enix or Capcom or whoever they’ve now got the opportunity to set up brand new studios with people that have left Sony. As always seems to happen with video games companies, the success of one is due more to the mistakes of the other and Sony seem to be walking straight into this one.
Like I said though, they deny anything of the sort is going on and while I don’t believe them the only way to know for sure is to watch what happens over the next few years and see what happens to Microsoft. The fact is though that, whatever Sony says, there are currently no new Japan Studio games known to be in production at the moment and the only Japanese first party excusive of any kind right now is Gran Turismo 7.
There will surely be some more sooner or later but if Sony manages to not only squander one of their greatest assets but give Microsoft an opportunity to take it from them then they deserve everything they get.
By reader Onibee
The reader’s feature does not necessary represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.
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